Aces on Bridge — Daily Columns

The Aces on Bridge: Monday, December 19th, 2011

Waldo is one of those people who would be enormously improved by death.


South North
Both ♠ 10 7 3
 A K Q 10 7 4
♣ 10 9 7
West East
♠ A Q 5
 J 5
 10 8 5 3
♣ K 6 4 3
♠ —
 9 8 6 3
 A 7 6 2
♣ A Q J 8 5
♠ K J 9 8 6 4 2
 Q J 9 4
♣ 2
South West North East
3♠ Pass 4♠ Dbl.
All pass      

It is particularly satisfying to discover when looking at a deal played or defended by experts that you can do better than the participants . Today's deal is one such example.

It is easy to relax when you are looking at two and a half tricks in your own hand and your partner doubles a game contract before you get the chance to bid at all. As the field discovered, relaxation at the table can prove very expensive.

The point is that at six of the seven tables from a major event where South played four spades doubled, West led a heart, which allowed declarer to get rid of his losing club and wrap up 10 tricks.

Geir Helgemo, who led a club at trick one, must have been surprised to find it earned him a game swing. However, while I elieve the heart lead deserved the loss of IMPs that it generated, the club lead is by no means cast-iron, though it seems preferable to any other of the side-suits.

In my opinion the lead of the spade ace stands out if one considers all the options. West is essentially uninterested in ruffs, but it may, for example, be necessary to sacrifice a trump trick to stop a crossruff. More to the point, retaining the lead preserves a valuable tempo. The sight of dummy will frequently make the defense easier — on this occasion the shift to clubs becomes obvious, but on a different day another play might be necessary.

Your partner's double just shows a good hand, so declarer's best chance of taking tricks here is on a crossruff. A low trump lead seems to keep most of your options for preventing declarer from scoring small trumps in one hand or the other. The ace of hearts and a second trump is also a viable option.


♠ 10 6 3
 A 9 7 6
 Q 4 3
♣ K 8 4
South West North East
1♣ 1
1 NT 2 Dbl. All pass

For details of Bobby Wolff’s autobiography, The Lone Wolff, contact If you would like to contact Bobby Wolff, please leave a comment at this blog. Reproduced with permission of United Feature Syndicate, Inc., Copyright 2011. If you are interested in reprinting The Aces on Bridge column, contact


Michael BeyroutiJanuary 2nd, 2012 at 2:09 pm

WOW! What a fantastic lead!
The printed version says: “Opening lead: Place your bets”.
Mr Wolff, if you had accepted bets from your readers, yes those who could see the four hands, you would be a rich man today!
We all “smartly” eschewed the heart lead and fell into to camps, diamond lead and club lead. No one could think of the ace of spade lead.
As often happens in Bridge problems, an elusive solution, once given, suddenly becomes obvious when in fact, a moment ago, it was far from obvious.
I’d say even Geir Helgemo was lucky with his choice. On another day, a club or a diamond lead could be as desastrous as the heart lead was on today’s hand.
The lead of the spade ace stands out far above the rest. Which goes to show how our host stood, and still stands, far above the rest.
Thank you Mr Wolff for sharing with us, so patiently and so generously, your expertise, your experience, your knowledge and your wisdom.
Michael B.

Bobby WolffJanuary 2nd, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi Michael,

I am honored and somewhat shocked, though still greatly flattered by your very kind words.

Never forget, that I, and my fine staff, are in the proverbial cat bird’s seat in determining the best defense by seeing all four hands, before, of course, writing about it.

Yes, I agree with you that the ace of spades is certainly the safest (and therefore possibly best) lead for the example hand given, but what if by leading the ace of spades the other 39 cards around the table were entirely different and somehow we could have gotten a 3rd spade trick by possibly securing a heart ruff along the way which would have added an extra defensive trick to our total.

Granted, the layout on this hand was as noted above and does show what a well thought out opening lead could gain in the event of stormy defensive weather in store.

Our great game of competitive tournament bridge is always the master and supplies us with the excitement needed which, in turn, makes playing the game and learning as we go, an irresistible challenge.

However, nothing can ever make me forget your beautiful comments and what a wonderful way for me to start our new year.

Thanks for writing and best always to you and yours.

Bruce KarlsonJanuary 3rd, 2012 at 1:11 am

Hi- The ace of spades lead is inspired as most of us would simply not consider it. Anyway, I would decline the lead of the heart to avoid any comments. To wit: “I thought you said we never lead worthelss doubletons. ” Further, the club lead is bold but a good score on a bold lead is ALWAYS more gratifiying. Generally, if I am not going passive with a trump lead and I need to find partner with a Q or even a J, I will take the plunge and lead away from K 4th.

Bobby WolffJanuary 3rd, 2012 at 1:40 am

Hi Bruce,

I haven’t heard from you in a while, so it is gratifying to now, and in addition to wishing you a happy New Year I hope you, when given a valid choice, continue to lead aggressively, mainly because it seems to work more often than it does not.